"Rising from plain Juan to top tycoon is in his genes."
Hong Kong-based investment management and holding company of the Salim Group of Indonesia, First Pacific Co. Ltd. is the crown jewel of Manuel Velez Pangilinan -- MVP as he is known -- as management wizard and investor par excellence.
MVP turned 75 last July 14. His top executives and business friends dedicated a heartwarming concert for him.
When one talks about investments, MVP should be top of one’s mind. He is a tough and grizzled investor, having invested and bought into a number of companies in businesses like food, telco, infrastructure, agriculture, mining, oil exploration, even hospitals (suddenly a win these days), and unbelievably, including hamburgers.
He has participated in many board battles, cut win-win deals with rivals, and overall taken both triumphs and defeats with the grit and practical mind of a true warrior.
He is a tireless worker (he works even on Sundays and holidays) and an aggressive and inveterate serial investor. He revels in his business victories and pulls back from defeats (which are fewer) to consolidate and fight another day.
MVP is the son of the late Dominador Pangilinan, a bank messenger (at state-owned Philippine National Bank) who became a bank president (of Traders Royal Bank). Manny’s grandfather was a public school teacher who became secretary (cabinet minister) of education. So rising from plain Juan to top tycoon is in MVP’s genes.
MVP went to San Beda for his elementary and high school, and to Ateneo de Manila for his economics studies, cum laude. In 1965, he won a competition for a Procter & Gamble scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. After two years, he wanted to bag a managerial job at Procter & Gamble. He was turned down. So he became an executive assistant to the president of Phinma, then one of Manila’s leading investment and management companies.
After six years, MVP went to Hong Kong for Bancom International, a Hong Kong-based Filipino investment house. He worked briefly with Amexco, then a Bancom partner.
In 1981, MVP put up First Pacific Ltd., with Liem Sioe Liong and his son, Anthoni Salim. The rest as they say, is history.
After 22 years in Hong Kong, MVP came back to the Philippines.
Thru First Pacific, Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (Metro Pacific) became a major Philippine infrastructure company with huge investments in power distribution and energy innovations (Meralco), urban water concession (Maynilad Water Services), tollways (Metro Pacific Tollways Corp.), upgrading hospitals and health services (Metro Pacific Investments Corporation). He is also chairman of Philex Mining Corp.. He chairs TV5, now the second biggest tv network, and controls, through PLDT’s pension fund, Philippine Star, said to be the leading daily, and BusinessWorld. These investments make MVP a media mogul. He is hugely influential.
In 1998, First Pacific acquired, from TonyBoy Cojuangco and the late Al Yuchengco, with the help of newly elected president Joseph Estrada, control of PLDT, the largest but troubled telecommunications giant of the Philippines. MVP turned it around.
Pangilinan served as managing director of First Pacific since its founding in 1981 until 1999. He became executive chairman until June 2003. After that, he became MD and CEO.
MVP has made Anthoni Salim and investors in First Pacific and as well as shareholders in PLDT, Metro Pacific and Meralco immensely rich. MVP faltered a number of times. But he thrived.
To him, money is nothing without meaning. “Meaning is what brings real richness to your life, to be surrounded by people you can truly work with – because you trust and treasure them, and they cherish you in return. That‘s when you‘re really rich, that‘s when you really succeed," he said in a widely panned Ateneo graduation speech in 2010.
As the managing director and CEO of the 40-year-old Hong Kong-based holding company First Pacific Ltd, MVP controls the electricity distribution monopoly Manila Electric Co. (where First Pacific owns 19.6 percent) and telco giant PLDT, Inc.(where FP owns 25.6 percent). FP itself is owned 44.4 percent by the Salim group of Indonesia.
With a P94-billion difference in revenues, Meralco (P275.3 billion) is now the MVP group’s flagship, with PLDT (P181 billion) a strong second.
PLDT (P24.58 billion) remains the top moneymaker of the MVP group as Meralco made only P16 billion profits in 2020. Despite the pandemic, PLDT had its best year in 2020.
Pangilinan is chair of both Meralco and PLDT. His Metro Pacific, owned 43.1 percent by FP, owns 45.5 percent of Meralco, 100 percent of generation giant Global Business Power, and majority of water utility Maynilad.
With $3.5 billion annual revenues and on track to make P30 billion in profits this year, PLDT is the Philippines’ largest and best telco and claims to deliver the finest customer experience in the market. PLDT also is 30 percent of FP’s gross asset value, globally.
MVP was PLDT president twice—from 1998 to 2004, and from 2016 to June 2021, a total of 11 years. He has been chairman since 1998 to the present.
From 2004 to 2020, PLDT revenues grew from P126.25 billion to P181 billion, assets from P265.47 billion to P575.84 billion, and equity from P48.5 billion to P119.66 billion.
FP’s mission is to unlock companies it invests in to deliver dividends to shareholders, share price/value appreciation in investee companies, and enhance the value of businesses of companies it buys into.